The Morrison government remains stuck behind in the polls and is relentlessly trying to take us into a khaki election.
In their desperation, Morrison and Defence Minister Peter Dutton have pulled out all stops to whip up anti-China militarism against the backdrop of the bloodbath in Ukraine and growing tensions over China’s security agreement with the Solomon Islands.
Dutton’s warmongering reached new heights in his ANZAC Day speech in Darwin. He compared Vladimir Putin to Hitler and likened China to Nazi Germany in the lead-up to the Second World War, warning that, “The only way you can preserve peace is to prepare for war.”
In Ukraine, the tensions between NATO and Russia have led to a disastrous and bloody conflict. The Morrison government’s push to militarise Australia and the region is adding to already existing imperialist tensions between US and China. The list of new military spending announcements is enormous and growing.
The centrepiece of the AUKUS military agreement with the US and UK announced last year is Australia’s acquisition of nuclear submarines, with some estimates putting the after-inflation cost at $171 billion. In addition, Morrison has now announced plans for a $10 billion East Coast base for the subs in either Port Kembla, Newcastle or Brisbane.
But the subs are just the beginning. Morrison plans to spend $38 billion expanding Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel numbers from 60,000 to 80,000, the biggest increase in the armed forces since the Vietnam War.
In early April, Peter Dutton declared, “There is potential of conflict in our area in a couple of years,” as he announced a $3.5 billion advanced weapons upgrade for the ADF, as part of government plans to establish a domestic missile manufacturing industry.
The plan, under the umbrella of the AUKUS agreement, will see the Australian government “partner” with US defence contractors Raytheon and Lockheed Martin to develop long-range hypersonic missiles that can travel five times the speed of sound.
Weapons for Ukraine
Not content with stoking the flames of war in Australia’s immediate region, Morrison has shamelessly used the conflict in Ukraine to push his militaristic agenda.
After a request from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Morrison agreed to send 20 Bushmaster armoured vehicles (costing around $500,000 each) to Ukraine in addition to the “lethal aid” already sent.
At the end of April, the Morrison government also joined the US in pledging heavy weapons for Ukraine for the first time. Australia will provide Ukraine with another $26.7 million worth of arms, including howitzers and ammunition.
In March, Dutton also announced the ADF’s first “space command”, saying some countries including Russia see “space as a territory for their taking”.
Defence Space Commander Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts said space gives Australia “unsurpassed advantage in surveillance and intelligence” and will be central to future wars that use hypersonic weapons, guided weapons and missiles.
While Morrison wildly boosts military spending, it is workers who are footing the bill for the Coalition’s disastrous drive to war. Hospitals, schools and aged care are in crisis with understaffed and overcrowded wards and classrooms. Many teachers, nurses and aged care workers are at breaking point thanks to brutal workloads, understaffing and low pay.
And Morrison has budgeted virtually nothing for renewable energy despite thousands continuing to suffer from unprecedented, climate change induced flooding in NSW and Queensland.
Albanese and Labor have pathetically backed every cent of Morrison’s military spending.
Albanese told the Lowy Institute he was “proud” of Labor’s decision taken in less than 24 hours to support Morrison’s AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine initiative. “I think that was an example of the maturity of the Australian Labor Party,” Albanese said.
Albanese has matched the Liberals in boosting military spending to over 2 per cent of GDP. Albanese’s criticism of the Coalition’s military spending is not the amount; just that it hasn’t resulted in enough armaments.
The urgent opposition that’s needed to fight imperialism and the dangerous drive to war with China won’t come from Labor.
It will have to come from the community, unions and anti-war campaigners. We need to fight for money for health, education and renewable energy, not missiles, nuclear submarines and other weapons of death and destruction.
By Adam Adelpour